Friday, 6 February 2015

Wife Post One: Castles in Canberra

To all our screaming fans out there waiting with bated breath for the next installment of the Castle’s travel blog: ye shall wait no longer! It is here!

We haven’t written for a while because we weren’t sure how to word the excitement of the time we are spending golfing, reading, napping, completing paperwork, napping, getting up late, reading, golfing, watching Netflix, and eating.

To be fair, we haven’t been couch-bound the entire time we’ve been here. We helped Ben and Nat lay sod in their new backyard, and the mounds of paperwork have dwindled far enough to breathe a sigh of relief. We are waiting for our final approval to begin working, and once we’ve made a little money, we will truly start adventuring around this part of the world (and contribute to groceries and such to help out our gracious hosts!). I have also taken Grady to see my old stomping grounds, we’ve checked out the local coffee shop, we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Open-Air Cinema with Ben and Nat, enjoyed a picnic and concert on the lawns of Parliament House for Australia Day, helped Nat and Ben to host a big Super Bowl party, and have generally been enjoying being unemployed for a little while. Funemployed, I think the kids are calling it? Indeed.

Things we’ve learned/taken a refresher course on:

  • Sod is freaking heavy. And super dirty.  Because it’s basically…dirt. The first 4396 rolls aren’t really that heavy, but when you try to pick up the 4397th roll, it suddenly weighs about 874 kilos (not pounds; we’re Australian now, and I don’t like math, but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate), and you have to hold it against your shirt and scratch your arms up with the roots because you don’t lift weights (Katira) or you can still hold it away from your cleaner-than-Katira’s shorts and flex your arm muscles like a show-off (Grady), but either way you’re going to end up covered in mud (literally from your toes to your hair – your hair!), and by the time you’re 2/3 done with what didn’t used to look like a big lawn, you don’t care all that much about how straight they are until you get to the last strip and it doesn’t quite fit, and you have to go back and fix all the other ones, and you should have tried harder in the first place, and thank goodness we put on sunscreen and I need another glass of water, my god it’s hot out here, when did it get so hot, and hey, this is actually kind of fun, but I’m glad I’m not a landscaper for a living. I don't know if I'm cut out for it.
Grady and his trench-digging jackhammer

    • Note: The yard looks awesome (except for a couple spots where Nat and I accidentally made sinkholes trying to move the sprinkler), and we are so happy we could help. As long as this grass takes, we will maintain that standpoint. If it doesn’t take, and it has to be replaced, we might mysteriously disappear for a couple days when they drop off the new rolls.
      Nat and Cat moving the sprinkler. Cat is "helping."
      Nat discovered that army crawling over to the sprinkler doesn't leave sinkholes. Kinda muddy though. Now we are using the super innovative pieces-of-wood-as-stepping-stones-so-we-don't-ruin-the-new-lawn-while-Ben-and-Nat-are-on-their-cruise method.

  • Australians are pretty into paperwork. And these special declarations where you sign things that say you’re not a liar and cross-my-heart-hope-to-die this information is correct as far as I know. So far, to apply to substitute teach in Canberra, we have had to apply for our Working With Vulnerable People (WWVP) registration, which we need to apply for our Teacher Quality Institute (TQI) registration, both of which we need to apply to the Education and Training Directorate to become Casual Relief Teachers. All of these applications are anywhere from 26 to 200 pages long (but no kidding, the Casual Teaching app was legit 26 pages long), and all of them require the same certified copies of original documents and blood types and spirit animal identification and star signs, etc. But I think this only increases your sense of relief when it’s done. We are holding our breath for the final response, and then we can go meet principals and sell our mad sub skills to the local schools!

  • Cujo no longer lives on the path that leads up the hill (“The Blue-Tongue Lizard Path," in family vernacular, due to the fact that one used to live there when we were kids. Fun fact: he might still be alive. We did not see him, but lizard life spans suggest it is possible, but not super likely.), but as Grady pointed out, it was highly unlikely that, even were that dog to still be living after about 20 years, he would still have the energy to viciously snarl at innocent children just trying to get home from school. Also, even as an adult, that hill is steep! I had fun leading Grady along the paths we took as children and showing him where we used to play.
    Walking up the hill to our old neighborhood

    Looking out over "New Macgregor" from "Old Macgregor"

  • People are really nice at Australian golf courses! A couple courses have already offered us free trial rounds so we can check out their course (which we eagerly took advantage of!), and they all know Grady and greet him by name when he comes in to practice. One pro shop guy at Belconnen even paid for my round when I joined Grady for the back nine!

This little family lives at the Gold Creek Country Club. They enjoying drinking from the puddle next to the practice green, dodging scary ravens, and distracting people with their cuteness while they are trying to hit from the driving range.

  • There’s nothing quite like looking for a lost golf ball with 200 shrieking sulphur-crested cockatoos mocking you (mockatoos) from the gum trees lining the fairway and soaring back and forth overhead (because they know they are even louder in motion). If you have never heard the cacophony of a flock of these majestic birds (they are beautiful, I’ll give them that), click here or here (or the other links in this paragraph) for a little taste. 
    A couple cockatoos being all cute and quiet. Look at these suckers. They're all like, "you think you're gonna sleep in? Haha, nope!...You think you're going to still be sane after searching for your ball for like 3 hours to the tune of the mockatoo soundtrack? Haha, nope!"

      To wrap up this inaugural wife-post, I want to give a huge shout-out to Ben and Nat, not only for putting us up in their beautiful new home, but also for arranging some fun activities for us in our first couple weeks down under. The first weekend we were here, Nat and a couple of her friends took us to the Australia Celebrates Live concert on the lawns of Parliament House with a delicious picnic. It was a beautiful evening, and was a great summer treat after having left snow and ice mere days before that.
Feeling like patriotic Australians at the Australia Day concert at Parliament House

Australia Day Sunset over the lawns of Parliament House

 Then the next week, they treated us to a night at the Ben and Jerry’s Open AirCinema, where we had dinner, drinks, and ice cream under the stars and watched St. Vincent (as well as thousands of huge bats swooping overhead—Grady later admitted he was quietly FREAKING OUT). We are enjoying being roomies with you guys!

Movie under the stars!

Pre-movie drinks with The Bravis Hotel owner-managers

Stay tuned for more on teaching in Canberra, travels in Australasia (and maybe even Middle Earth!), and Adventures With Yard Work, Episode 2: Fencing!